10 Gardening Tips For Being a Lazy Gardener

I’m a certified lazy gardener. Okay, that’s a lie because as far as I know there is no certification program for being lazy in the garden but if there was, I’d be top of the class. Or, you know, as top-of-the-class as a lazy person can be. I still manage to grow food in small spaces and I hope in the future to be able to grow enough to: 1) feed myself year round and 2) share with others.

My experience has been that having a sunny spot with some good soil is the most important ingredient. Plants know their business and will do their vegetative thang even with minimal effort from yourself. Do I get the highest yield on the planet? Probably not. But I get plenty of delicious veggies so I’m fine with that.

Gardening doesn’t have to be slog. Those of us with less energy can still enjoy growing our own food. Here are some gardening tips for growing food while being a little lazy!

Top 10 Tips for Growing Food While Keeping it Lazy

1) Two Words. Raised. Beds. (or containers)

I wish I could make this tips 1 through 5. I mean, if you’re one of those lucky people who finds pulling weeds meditative and zen like, raised beds may not fulfill your spiritual needs but for me they are the best thing to ever happen to me AND my garden. This could be a whole post in and of itself.
There are the advantages of never stepping so never compressing the soil and being able to completely dictate the soil but, for lazy purposes the two things that matter most are: 1) not having to bend down quite so far and 2) FEWER WEEDS! Don’t believe me? See pictorial evidence. Are the raised beds weed free? No. Do they have 4,653,275 fewer weeds than the ground beds? Yes.

2) No Till

This goes hand in hand with raised bed gardening but it should also be considered for in ground gardens. Tilling is used as a “quick” way to put residual plant material from a growing season into the ground so you have a blank painting canvas and is also used to “fluff” the soil after compaction. The shocking truth though is that tilling only has short term benefits for your soil and in the long term is actually degrading it. Not walking (or driving) on your planting soil can help with compaction as does annually adding organic materials (compost) and/or using a cover crop. This will help your soil stay aerated and well nourished.

3) Embrace Chaos (just a little bit)

I’m a wildlife biologist so my aesthetic is bit more chaotic than most people’s. Nature is always beautiful but rarely neat. Your garden will do great and likely be a pleasure to work in with pin straight rows and leaves that never touch one another in pristine weed-free soil but boy, is that a lot of work.
There are trade offs I’d much rather spend my time hunting for produce then weeding or constantly arranging plants. I guess it depends on what your jam is but embracing a little chaos, if your heart will allow it, is a great way save your back and some time.

My Garden Chaos
4) Drip Irrigation

This is one that I don’t have personal experience with…yet. I can’t wait until I have experience with it. This summer has been very dry and watering conventionally is such a drag and likely pretty wasteful. Drip irrigation lets you water plants evenly and thoroughly right at the ground and roots so it’s less wasteful and you just turn it on and let it go. No standing there blank eyed with the hose FOREVER.

5) Be Prepared

This may not sound lazy but trust me, sitting relaxed in your recliner looking up recipes or storage preparation is a much better way to honor your inner slug than panicking about and scrambling to do something with the metric ton of tomatoes you just harvested. Have a plan. Know what you are going to do ahead of time, then, implement when the time comes while rocking out to some mellow smooth jazz. Or show tunes. Whatever your jam.

6) Strategic Plant Choices (permaculture, hardier vegetables)

Don’t pick the finickiest plants. The end.
Just kidding. Choose fruits and vegetables that are relatively reliable and hardy. Load up on vegetables that will store or preserve well (ex. potatoes, garlic) to maximize your effort. Include some perennials in your garden like many herbs, rhubarb and horseradish, and many fruit shrubs and trees.

Mint is a prolific and hardy herb with many uses
7) Stagger Planting

This is all about spreading out the work. Because of moving into a new space this year, I had a bunch of upfront work getting an area ready to be a garden. So I was scrambling to get things planted and because I’m lazy and everything needed doing at once – some things didn’t get planted on time and it was all less than ideal. Some days I have the energy to spend all day out doing gardeny things and those are good days. But most days I like to do an hour here, 2 hours there and staggering planting helps to support the way my energy levels work. You might even investigate, if it’s possible in your region, planting some of your cold season crops in the fall rather than rushing it all in the spring.

8) Growing in a Grow Bag (especially potatoes)

This is a trick that works particularly well for potatoes and comes in especially handy at harvest time. Instead of digging into the ground to harvest potatoes, you dump the contents of the grow bag, soil and all, on a tarp. It is then very easy to sift through and pick out the potatoes. You’re less likely to miss a potato as well! For small space gardener, I think a grow bag would work really well for any root vegetable. You do have to pay attention to watering as they dry out quickly.

Potatoes from grow bags
9) Don’t Fertilize, Use Compost

I get a deeply befuddled expression when I try to keep track of which vegetables and fruits need which kind of fertilizer and when, and then sorting through organic fertilizer varieties, because I’m trying to be sustainable. Better to attend to my soil’s health. Some plants may be an exception (roses come to mind, acid loving plants like blueberries maybe), but for most, adding nutrients through compost is going to work great, is simpler and is easier to implement. Bottom line, you’re better off using your brain power and energy to develop a good source of compost than using manufactured fertilizers.

10) Mulch

You can mulch around your plants with almost anything. A layer of newspaper kept in place with grass clippings or, you know, mulch in bags from the store. Then use those bags as a weed barrier. Whatever you want! Mulching will hold moisture in the ground a little longer than bare soil and will help with weed control.

That’s it! Please don’t take this as the some kind of referendum on the best way to garden! If the idea of a chaotic garden stresses you out or your goal is to squeeze every last drop of productivity out of your plants, many of these tips will not work for you. My hope is that for folks who get overwhelmed by the amount of work, these gardening tips will help you maximize your garden’s potential while also taking time to replenish your energy. Let me know in the comments what your favorite way of saving energy in the garden is!

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: Square Foot Gardening is kind of a classic at this point and it is the book that opened my eyes to world of raised bed gardening.  I had a tiny amount of space at my old place and this is how I decided to maximize it.  Along the way I became a devotee of raised beds – they have their downsides (a good amount of labor and financial output to start, and if you have space, it’s probably not as efficient) but for me they are outweighed by the positives. I will definitely do another post just on raised beds! This is a nice reference book that everyone should take a look at that provides an outline of the strategy, how to make your own soil and spacing recommendations for dozens of vegetables.  Click the book cover below to learn more about it.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Buying the book below from amazon will earn me a commission.  

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4 Comments on “10 Gardening Tips For Being a Lazy Gardener

  1. Great suggestions, Steph! We’re mostly in-ground gardeners, and the mulch tip is 100% the biggest time saver for us! We mulch with grass clippings collected by our lawn sweeper so we don’t have to do much weeding after that. Plus, it helps maintain good soil moisture. Sometimes we will cut old rubber backed entryway carpets into strips that fit between garden rows, and this also helps with weed control, soil moisture, and reducing soil compaction (and a good re-purpose for an old carpets heading to the dumpster).
    We also love drip irrigation. We’ve been doing that for about 5 years now and it is incredibly efficient for both time and water use. It also helps reduce fungal issues that can develop, since it just waters the base of the plant and not the leaves. It’s worth the initial time investment to set up drip irrigation at the beginning of the gardening season, as we ALWAYS end up with a long dry period at some point 😀

    • That’s a great idea about using carpet in paths and between rows! Love that! I am seriously excited about installing drip irrigation – glad to hear how well it works for you all! We’ve had a nice run of drought here AND the rural water prices are killer, not to mention that I want to conserve water anyway. I’m going to try to be patient in setting up my main garden space and make sure to do it right.

      • oof, yes, we had Xenia rural water and it was so expensive! Luckily, our outdoor spigots were hooked up to the existing well and we used that for watering the garden (it even came pre-fertilized with lots of nitrates, haha..ha…ha..*sigh*).

        • I was shocked when I signed on to Xenia – the base monthly amount is twice what I paid in town and even with only one person I always go over the base amount. I’ll get some rain barrels set up eventually that will help and I do some gray water collection as well. Yay for well! Boo for pre-fertilized:(. Oh, Iowa.

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